Project Details
Funding Scheme : Early Career Scheme
Project Number : 28601617
Project Title(English) : Watching Mainland Chinese Television Dramas in Hong Kong: Youth, Identities and Transcultural Consumption 
Project Title(Chinese) : 在香港看中國大陸電視劇:年輕人,身分認同與跨文化消費 
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr ZHOU, Lulu 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Literature and Cultural Studies
Institution : The Education University of Hong Kong
E-mail Address : luluzhou@eduhk.hk 
Tel : 29487407 
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Humanities and Arts
Exercise Year : 2017 / 18
Fund Approved : 250,562
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 31-12-2019
Project Objectives :
producing timely empirical data on watching mainland drama in Hong Kong;
reworking theories of transcultural audiences’ viewing motivations;
extending our understanding of contemporary Hong Kong youngsters by examining their negotiations in local and national identities.
Abstract as per original application

作為最流行的藝術形式,電視劇具有重大的經濟、政治和社會意義。香港電視劇曾經幫助定義香港身分,輸入中國大陸后也影響了好幾代大陸觀眾。但是,最近幾年出現了一股「 逆流」:許多香港出生的年輕人發展出對中國大陸生產的電視劇(以下簡稱陸劇)——如《步步驚心》、《何以笙簫默》、《花千骨》和《瑯琊榜》等的興趣甚至偏好。這個現象頗不尋常,因為(1)以前,陸劇被認為只能吸引來自大陸的新移民群體,或者中老年觀眾;(2)香港人的國族認同均在2008年之後下滑,這個趨勢在年輕人中尤其明顯。所以,為什麼香港年輕人會在「反中抗陸」的社會氣氛中觀看陸劇?本研究試圖回答這個充滿矛盾的觀眾動機問題。 在前期研究中,我用焦點小組訪談法調查過香港大學生的電視劇消費,研究發現,比起本地劇和外國劇,陸劇是小組討論中最具爭議性的話題,很多香港大學生都看陸劇,其動機導向四個理論:首先,陸劇是新舊媒體上最易獲得的媒體資源;其次,最近走紅的陸劇絕大部分改編自年輕人寫的、寫給年輕人看的中國網絡小說;然後,香港大學生喜歡陸劇呈現的「烏托邦感性」,特別喜歡陸劇獨有的類型如「仙俠劇」;最後,因為很多來自香港的台前幕後的人才在陸劇生產過程中扮演關鍵角色,稱呼這些劇集為「合拍劇」,而非「陸劇」,可能更能把握全球在地化趨勢中的劇集特質。 前期研究只關注大學生,本研究打算擴展到所有18-30歲的香港年輕人,邀請其中看過陸劇的觀眾參與。研究方法分為三部分:「網絡民族誌」分析媒體報道和網上的香港觀眾對陸劇的討論;生產研究和文本分析提供背景性的知識;最重要的還是觀眾訪談,我將以一對一的、半結構式、面對面的深入訪談為方法,採訪大概34位看過陸劇的香港年輕人。 本研究是一個跨學科的嘗試,將與電視劇、觀眾、跨文化消費、青年研究、文學改編和全球在地化的理論進行對話。香港的電視劇觀眾研究長期處於匱乏狀態,本研究將提供及時的經驗性的數據。對於青年研究和青年教育來說,本研究也將有助於了解香港年輕人對本地和國族身分的探索。同時,由於電視劇是一國展示「軟實力」的重要前鋒,本研究將為香港的文化政策制定者提供洞見,在所謂的「大國崛起」的語境下重新定位香港的流行文化及香港的位置。最後,因為傳統的收視率在這個用不同媒體收看電視劇的新時代越來越失去可靠性,這個定性的觀眾研究將幫助電視工業從業者更好地理解青年觀眾——這樣一批難以理解卻又無比珍貴的收視群體。
Realisation of objectives: Objective 1: producing timely empirical data on watching mainland drama in Hong Kong; Textual Analysis: I have elected 10 representative mainland Chinese TV dramas which are liked by Hong Kong young people in recent years, and my criteria are: (1) mainland dramas that are rated highly in Douban.com, a Chinese version of IMDb; (2) mainland dramas that are bought and aired by Hong Kong TV stations, such as TVB, ViuTV and Hong Kong Open TV; (3) mainland dramas that are frequently reported by Hong Kong mass and new media, including but not limited to: Apple Daily, Ming Pao, ON.CC, Ta Kung Pao, Wenwei Po, South China Morning Post, and HK01, etc’ (4) mainland dramas that are mentioned and (dis)liked by my interviewers. As a result, these 10 mainland dramas meet all 4 or 3 of these above-mentioned criteria:  Empresses in the Palace 《後宮·甄嬛傳》(2011)  Scarlet Heart 《步步驚心》(2011)  Nirvana in Fire 《琅琊榜》 (2015)  Once Upon a Time 《三生三世十裏桃花》(2017)  Addiction 《上癮》(2016)  The Romance of Three Kingdoms 《三國演義》 (1994)and Three Kingdoms《三國》(2010)  The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber 《倚天屠龍記》(2019)  A Love So Beautiful《致我們單純的小美好》(2017)  Story of Yanxi Palace 《延禧攻略》(2015)  My Chief and My Regiment《我的團長我的團》(2009) Objective 2: reworking theories of transcultural audiences’ viewing motivations” Theory: Romance According to research, compared to other TV drama genres, romance can be easily exported to other countries and districts (Yang, 2008); in addition, romance is the safest and unpolitical genre which can easily pass the censorship systems in different counties and districts. In this case, 6 of 10 dramas fall into this genre: Empresses in the Palace, Scarlet Heart, Once Upon a Time, The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber, A Love So Beautiful, Story of Yanxi Palace. Based on popular American romance novels in 1980s, Janice Radway’s book (1985) proposes a formula of romance: the hero must be intelligent, gentle, and gets a sense of humor, as well as protect the heroine; the heroine is supposed to be intelligent, independent, strong, fiery, gets a sense of humor, and is capable of defy the hero. Actually, these 6 mainland dramas’ heroes and heroines are almost the same with Radways. Theory: queer studies Boys’ Love (BL). BL is the East Asian version of Slash in the West, which is a cultural text written by and for heterosexual female, and descripts male-male love and sex. Addiction is a story of 2 high school students who go beyond the barrier of homophobia and be with each other eventually. BL is not a gay art, but it does show sympathy toward them and raise gay communities’public awareness. According to several of my interviewees, there is no BL Hong Kong TV drama which can cater to BL fans’watching needs; and mainland BL TV drama started at an early stage, so it becomes an object of fandom of some Hong Kong young people. Theory: hybridity According to Stuart Hall, we should move away from the problematic understanding of essentialism in notions of “purity” and “authenticity” (1990). The concept “hybridity” enables us to take a historical view on cultural texts. Mainland Chinese TV dramas, in this line of thinking, should not be considered as having an essentialized “Mainlandness” that is different from “HongKongness”. Because most of popular mainland TV dramas which are liked by Hong Kong youngsters are actually co-productions which are products of mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other districts’ staff. For instance, Ada Tsoi, the Hong Kong actress, plays a leading role in Empresses in the Palace; Lam Yuk-fun the Hong Kong director has directed many hit mainland dramas such as Scarlet Heart and Once Upon a Time. Objective 3: extending our understanding of contemporary Hong Kong youngsters by examining their negotiations in local and national identities. After re-theorizing the above-mentioned theories, we can find that all support one conclusion: you want to be fascinated by mainland TV dramas, but you do want to be conquered by it; in other words, watching mainland TV drama does not mean embracing its ideologies, either good or bad, completely and whole-heartedly. Because romance is an international common language, my interviewees are not dedicated to mainland romance dramas; rather, they watch all “good” romance dramas, such as South Korea’s Descendants of The Sun (2016), and Taiwan drama Someday or One Day (2019). Similarly, since what some of my interviewees like is BL stories, their object of watching is not limited to mainland produced ones, but to all BL texts. When History (2017) is released online, they found it is more interesting than Addiction, thus they became fans of History. Meanwhile, many of this research’s participants love Charmaine Sheh when she was in TVB, therefore, watching her performance in Story of Yanxi Palace is enjoying How a Hong Kong actress’ outstanding acting skills enhance this drama’s quality. Mainland-HongKong relations has been going down since 2008 (Chiu, 2016). Although Hong Kong young people’s consuming of mainland Chinese TV dramas helps dispel some misunderstanding of mainlanders, but eventually media consumption alone is not an effective tool to improve mainland-HongKong relations.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.producing timely empirical data on watching mainland drama in Hong Kong;Yes100%
2.reworking theories of transcultural audiences’ viewing motivations;Yes100%
3.extending our understanding of contemporary Hong Kong youngsters by examining their negotiations in local and national identities.Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: Textual Analysis: (2018) 「從親密關系研究看宮鬥劇提供的婚戀指南」,《戲劇與影視評論》6(2018): 110-120. “Mating Advice in Palace-manipulations Television Dramas”. Stage and Screen Review 6 (2018): 110-120. Textual Analysis of Empresses in the Palace and Story in Yanxi Palace, which are among the favorite mainland TV dramas of my female interviewees. I argue in this paper that why Palace manipulation stories are hit in recent years. Ultimately, it is still within romance genre, but situating love in the context of palace makes such romance more dramatic; meanwhile, it provides audiences with many dating and marriage suggestions, which strike a chord with their daily affective lives. (2019) 「周芷若還是趙敏?:正邪框架、父權紅利與2019版《倚天屠龍記》」,《戲劇與影視評論》6(2019): 45-55. “Zhou Zhi-ruo or Zhao Min? Frameworks of the Good and Evil, Patriarchal Dividend and The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber (2019)”. Stage and Screen Review 6 (2018): 110-120. Textual Analysis of The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber (2019), which are the warmly received by both male and female interviewees. I compared the original Hong Kong novel and the adaptation the mainland TV dramas and analyzed the strength and weakness of such adaptation. Like many mainland dramas, this drama’s director is also from Hong Kong. (2020)「間接權力理論與《三國演義》中的權謀描寫」,《文學論衡》總第 37 期 (2020 年 12 月),即出。Theories of Indirect Power and the Manipulation Narratives in Romances of Three Kingdoms, Journal of Chinese Literary Studies Vol. 37, accepted. Textual Analysis of Romances of Three Kingdom, which are the warmly received by my male interviewees. Most of popular mainland TV dramas are adaptation of novels; and in recent years the adapted novels are not limited to classic and “highbrow” ones, but begins to include internet popular novels. Nontheless, classic novels are constantly adapted into TV drama. Romances of Three Kingdom is the most influential classic novel in China, and its characters enjoy huge popularity in Asian and another parts of the worlds. In this paper, I have critically examined this story’s description of manipulation, and suggest some better adaptation directions for future producers and scriptwriters to consider. Audiences Research: Currently I am writing a book Transcultural Cultural Consumption between Mainland China and Hong Kong: TV Dramas, Audiences and Identities (陸港跨境文化消費:電視劇,觀衆與身份認同). This research is a combination of findings of my PhD thesis and ECS project, which will be submitted to a local publisher before the end of this year. I talk about why mainland fans love Hong Kong TV dramas before 2010s, and why the consumption flow is reversed in recent years, because more and more Hong Kong young people tend to watch mainland TV dramas. But the reason of watching, on either side, is not a result of seeking essentialized “HongKongness” or “Mainlandness”; instead, what these audiences want, is an “utopian sensibility”(Dyer, 1985) that is provided by all entertainment products. For instance, mainland fans were fascinated by a career woman’s happy ending in nearly all TVB TV dramas: she “succeeds” in both workplace and loving live. But in reality, a woman is always tortured by her career and family; seldom does anyone can “balance out”. Likewise, Hong Kong young people like the pure love story represented by many mainland dramas, but pure love story is not mainland dramas’ exclusive themes.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
1. The book manuscript which I submit will be under anonymous review, thus, I will make accordingly revisions later. 2. Mainland Chinese TV drama industry is booming and its current popularity in Hong Kong is only a beginning of this tendency. As the Hong Kong TV drama declines, and the common language systems shared by Mandarin and Cantonese, there will be more and more audiences who watch mainland dramas. In addition, mainland dramas may get rid of the needs of Hong Kong staff onstage and offstage; as a consequence, the aesthetic and ideological styles of mainland dramas may change later. This project, thus, can be continued by a follow-up one in the future, if the success of mainland TV drama goes on.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
Nature: This is an audience study of why Hong Kong young people watch mainland Chinese TV dramas when mainland-HongKong relationships deteriorated after 2008. By integrating textual analysis and empirical audience studies, this project provides a relatively broad picture of transcultural cultural consumption. Significance and value: 1. for cultural studies: this project re-theorizes major concepts by scrutinizing an interesting media contra-flow case: romance, queer, hybridity, etc. 2. for Hong Kong studies: mainland-HongKong relationship is not only an academic topic, but also a reality that nearly every HongKonger has to face every day. This project contributes by researching one dimension of such relationships: transcultural media consumption. The result indicates that although such transcultural media flow enables Hong Kong youngsters to understand mainland more thoroughly; however, such consumption has not changed their cultural identities. They love mainland dramas, but they do not want to take a subjective position of mainlanders.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2018 周潞鷺  《男人喜歡“難于得手”的女人嗎?──從親密關係研究看宮鬥劇提供的婚戀指南》。《戲劇與影視評論》,2018年第6期,第110-120頁。  Yes 
2020 周潞鷺  「間接權力理論與《三國演義》中的權謀描寫」,《文學論衡》總第 37 期 (2020 年 12 月),已接受,即出。  No 
2019   「周芷若還是趙敏?:正邪框架、父權紅利與2019版《倚天屠龍記》」,《戲劇與影視評論》6(2019): 45-55.  Yes 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
Madrid, Spain When Hong Kong People watch Mainland Chinese Television Dramas: Localism, Nationalism and the Identities Issue of “Market Mentality”  The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):
Realisation of the education plan: